This holiday season, while youâre busy decorating, cooking, & wrapping gifts, remember to watch out for holiday temptations for your pets. FDA veterinarian Carmela Stamper tells how to keep your animals safe.
Stocking Stuffers & Pet Treats
If your dog received a stocking full of pet treats, make sure he doesnât gobble them all up at once. According to Stamper, if he eats the treats whole, or eats too many at once, he may not be able to digest them. Unchewed pet treats can get stuck in the trachea (windpipe) or gastrointestinal tract (esophagus, stomach, AND intestines), particularly in small dogs.
If your dog is in obvious distress from eating too much too fast, says Stamper, contact your Veteran immediately. Some telltale signs are drooling, choking, or vomiting.
Take note of timing. If a bone or chew toy lodges in your dogâs stomach or intestines, the symptoms might not be immediate. Hours to days later, he may vomit AND have diarrhea, be less active, not want to eat, & have stomach pain. If the blockage stays there too long, your dog may become very ill. The worst-case scenario is when a hole develops at the blockage site, causing a life-threatening infection.
âWhen in doubt, contact your veterinarian, who may need to take x-rays or use an endoscope to see what & where the problem is,â Stamper says. Your dog may even need surgery to remove blockages in the intestines.
Tinsel & Ribbons
When decorating your tree & wrapping or unwrapping gifts, keep a close eye on where you leave your leftover tinsel, string, & ribbons.
âYour cat may find these decorations irresistible because they look like easy-to-catch, sparkly, & wiggly prey,â Stamper says. In fact, they can cause serious stomach & intestinal damage.
Symptoms may take a few hours or several days to appear, & include vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, & decreased activity. Play it safe by keeping tinsel off the tree and collecting all ribbons & strings after gifts are opened.
If you have holiday plants such as poinsettias, holly, or mistletoe around, take care. When you display (or dispose of) these plants, your cat may decide theyâre good to eat, Stamper says.
Poinsettias, for example have a milky white, latex sap that can irritate your animalâs mouth & stomach & may cause vomiting & diarrhea. âIf your cat has snacked on poinsettia leaves, you can help him by picking up his food & water dishes for a couple of hours to let his stomach settle,â Stamper advises.
The National Animal Poison Control Center (NAPCC) states that the major toxic chemicals in mistletoe are lectins AND phoratoxins. These chemicals affect the heart, causing low blood pressure & slowed heart rate.
âFortunately for your cat, severe mistletoe toxicity is uncommon & usually occurs only if your pet eats a large amount,â Stamper explains. Symptoms include vomiting AND diarrhea, difficulty breathing, slowed heart rate, low blood pressure, & odd behavior.
While holly isnât as harmful, you should still discourage your pets from eating the berries & leaves, Stamper says. In both dogs & cats, the plantâs toxins can cause drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, & decreased activity.
Resist the temptation to give your pet table scraps that are high in fat, such as fat trimmed from meat or skin from your roasted turkey or chicken. âIn addition to the typical gastrointestinal upset, rich, fatty foods can cause a potentially life-threatening & painful disease called pancreatitis,â Stamper says. The most common symptoms of pancreatitis in dogs include vomiting, stomach pain, restlessness, shaking, diarrhea, fever, AND weakness.
In cats, the symptoms are less clear & harder to notice, such as decreased appetite & weight loss.
AND be careful what you put in the trash can, Stamper warns. Dogs, especially, are notorious for helping themselves to the turkey carcass or steak bones disposed of there. As with too many treats, bones can get stuck in your dogâs esophagus, or trachea. Sharp pieces of bones can also injure your dogâs mouth, esophagus, AND stomach, & can cause severe internal injuries.
âDonât forget, once dinner is done, dispose of the leftovers & bones somewhere where your pets canât get to them,â Stamper says.
Other Human Treats, Including Alcohol
As many pet owners know, chocolate can be dangerous to your dog or cat. Chocolate toxicity depends on the type AND amount of chocolate your dog has eaten, his body weight, & if heâs extra-sensitive to the toxic compound in chocolate called theobromine, Stamper says.
Moreover, the seemingly harmless mints common in the holiday season cause life-threatening problems for your dog if they contain xylitol, also found in food items such as candy, gum, some peanut butters, AND baked goods, & personal hygiene products, such as toothpaste & mouthwash. Symptoms occur quickly after dogs eat xylitol-containing items, Stamper says. Vomiting is generally first, followed by symptoms associated with the sudden lowering of your dogâs blood sugar (hypoglycemia), such as decreased activity, weakness, staggering, incoordination, collapse, & seizures. Check the package labels to see if they contain xylitol.
After eating chocolate, some pets develop more severe complications, including liver failure, bleeding disorders, and death. If you suspect your dog has eaten chocolate or xylitol-containing items, consider it an emergency & call your veterinarian immediately.
Finally, thereâs alcohol. Depending on how much they drink, pets that consume alcohol can develop serious problems. The most common symptoms in pets associated with the consumption of alcoholic beverages are vomiting, diarrhea, incoordination, weakness, decreased activity, difficulty breathing, & shaking. In severe cases, coma & death from respiratory failure (lungs stop functioning) can occur. âDonât accidentally leave your eggnog on the coffee table,â Stamper says.
December 17, 2015
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